What? Kovakka (Gherkin) Chutney?

“What? Kovakka (Gherkin) Chutney?”

That was my reaction when my neighbor was telling me about this recipe. Soon she gave me some to taste and since then, I have become a huge fan of this chutney! Its simple, yummy and easy to make.

Back home, with mom working and the general time crunch in the mornings, we were brought up more on idli podi than on chutneys. Even now, I don’t feel the need for a chutney to go with dosa or idli. Harry dear, however loves to have a dip for his morning tiffin – one of the many reasons why I switched to cornflakes and bread in the mornings :D (not to mention getting up late).

I had made paneer masala dosa and this chutney tasted really good with it. So Harry got his wish and had a lovely meal that day. His support for this blog has become even more huge and he is encouraging (or threatening) his friends and colleagues to visit this site.  I guess he figures out that if no one visits this place, he will be back to his sambar and curry diet ;-)

Ingredients:

Kovakka : 250 gms

Onion : 1 big, chopped fine

Tomato : 1, chopped fine (can be substituted with a small gooseberry sized tamarind)

Saunf (fennel seed) powder : 1 – 2 tsp

Red Chillies : 2-3

Salt to taste

Oil – 2 to 3 tsp

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a pan. Add the onions and cook till transparent.
  2. Add the tomato and let it cook for 2-3 minutes
  3. Add the gherkins/kovakka. Add about 1/4 cup water and cover and cook, stirring occasionally.
  4. Let it cool.
  5. Grind in a mixie, with salt, chillies and perum jeera(saunf) powder.
  6. Serve with dosa or idli.

Easier Method:

  1. Microwave the onion and tomato with a teaspoon of oil for 3-4 minutes till cooked.
  2. Cover and microwave the kovakka separately for 4-5 minutes or till cooked.
  3. Once cool, grind everything together with salt, chillies and saunf powder.

The fennel seed powder (saunf powder) gives an amazing smell and flavor to this chutney. You can substitute kovakka with brinjal or lady’s finger too (I haven’t tried this yet, though).

Paneer Filling for Dosa

Ingredients:

Dosa Batter

Onion : 1 big, chopped fine

Tomato : 1 or 2, chopped fine

Paneer : 200 gms, crumbled/grated

Green Chillies : 2 or 3, chopped

Ginger-garlic paste : 1 tsp

Salt : to taste

Oil : 2 tsp

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a pan. Add onions, green chillies and ginger garlic paste and saute till the onions turn transparent.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute till it gets cooked and pulpy.
  3. Add salt and crumbled paneer and mix thoroughly once. Remove from fire.
  4. Make a dosa and keep  1-2 tablespoon of filling inside.  Fold and serve with the kovakka chutney.
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Popeye the Sailor Man

“I’m Popeye the Sailor Man, 
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man. 
I’m strong to the finich 
Cause I eats me spinach. 
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.” 

This is the first thing that comes to me when I look at spinach.

I don’t make keerai as much as I would like to, as I hate cleaning it. The keerai/spinach bunch you get here is freshly picked and hence has the roots too. So unless you clean it thoroughly, you will end up eating ‘sand-y keerai’.


This time, my father cleaned and cut the leaves for me. I was planning to make a simple keerai thoran (dry curry with coconut). I started off confidently and soon after noticed that there is way too much water in it. In my hurry to cook , I had forgotten to let the leaves drain!! So instead of making a watery version of a dry curry, I switched modes and made Harry’s favorite puli keerai masial.



This puli keerai masial (spinach cooked with tamarind and mashed nicely) has been on Harry’s weekend menu for a long time. He hasn’t displayed any superhuman strength like Popeye yet,  but who knows – this weekend’s spinach dosage might just do the trick :-D!

Ingredients:

Keerai/Amaranth/Spinach : 1 bunch, cleaned and chopped

Tamarind : a small gooseberry sized, soaked in water

Asafoetida : a pinch

Salt : to taste

Oil : 1 tsp

Mustard seeds : 1 tsp

Urad dal : 1 tsp

Dried Red Chillies : 1 or 2

Optional (But I did it anyway):

Coconut : 1/4 – 1/2 cup

Jeera/Cumin seeds : 1/2 tsp

Green chillies : 1 or 2

Method: 

  1. Extract juice from the soaked tamarind or use 1 tsp tamarind paste.
  2. Cook the keerai in a heavy bottom kadai with 1/2 cup water, tamarind extract, salt and asafoetida.
  3. Mash nicely with a ladle while it is cooking.
  4. When the keerai is cooked and mashed nicely, keep aside.
  5. Heat oil in a small pan. Add mustard seeds.
  6. When it splutters, add urad dal.
  7. Add to the keerai masial and serve.

Note:

You can grind coconut (1/4 – 1/2 cup),  jeera (1 tsp) and green chillies(1 or 2) and add this mixure to the masial while its cooking.

 Easier version:

  1. Pressure cook the cleaned spinach with tamarind extract for 1 whistle and let it cool.
  2. Blend in a mixer (I prefer food processor with chopping blade).
  3. Heat oil in a pan. Add asafoetida and mustard seeds.
  4. Add urad dal, after mustard splutters.
  5. Add to the keerai masial and serve.

The Onion-Tomato Duo

When I first learnt cooking, almost all my cooking was based on onion and tomato!! Every now and then, potatoes would make an appearance.

There is so much you can do with tomatoes and onions. You can make tomato rice, tomato based yogurt, tomato puli kuzhambu, simple tomato side dish for chapattis, simple side dish for dosa/idli, prepare sauce for pizza, pasta ..the options are endless.

I didn’t do the grocery shopping for this week. So all that was left in the fridge was tomatoes. Luckily, there were some onions left. So I made tomato rice for lunch and served it with tomato raita. So you can see for yourself how many dishes can be made with one single simple recipe.

Ingredients:

Onions : 1 big or 2 medium

Tomatoes : 5 medium

Green chillies : 2 or 3, per taste

Ginger : 1/2″ piece, chopped fine

Garlic : 4 pods, chopped fine

Salt : to taste

Turmeric Powder : 1/4 tsp

Oil : 1 -2 tsp

Method:

  1. Chop the onion, ginger, garlic finely. Chop the green chillies into small pieces.
  2. Dice the tomatoes.
  3. Heat oil. Add the chopped onions, chillies, ginger and garlic. Fry till onions become transparent.
  4. Add tomatoes, saute till it becomes soft. If it becomes too dry, you can add about 1/4 cup water.
  5. Add salt and turmeric powder and cook till the curry is slightly dry.

That is all to it!!!

Note: 

  • Substitute 1/2 to 1 tsp chilli powder for green chillies.
  • You can add 1 tsp coriander powder and 1/4 tsp garam masala to this
  • Use ginger garlic paste instead of ginger and garlic.  You can skip it altogether too, if you don’t like it.
  • You can use butter or ghee, instead of oil, for a great flavor.
  • Basically, this is just onion and tomato cooked fine with a bit of salt and spice (chillies or chilli powder).
  • This mix can be used as a base for all vegetable side dishes. To this mix, add the cooked vegetable and cook for a few minutes and you are done!

I mixed  half of this paste with 2-3 cups of cooked rice. You need to adjust the salt according to your taste and ….

… Tomato rice is ready to serve.

To serve with the tomato rice, I mixed about 1-2 tbsp of onion-tomato with 1 cup yogurt. So you have a cool raita that goes well with the rice. This yogurt tastes yummy with plain rice too.

I still have some onion tomato mix left, I will adding some cooked cauliflower or potato to it and serve it as a side dish.

So here it is : A satisfying lunch with minimum effort :)

Eddoe Roast

  1. Well, do you know what “Eddoe” is?  I didn’t. Until I Google-d for CheppanKizhangu.

Since Eddoe sounds fancier than CheppanKizhangu, I thought I will name this post after it. I get to quiz you guys about it too.

Would I have known the names Eddoe or Taro, if it were not for internet? I guess not. It struck me how much we are dependent on the net for even the smallest thing. Want a decent Morkuzhambu recipe? Google it. Want to get the names of restaurants near your home?  Google it.

So lets all ‘O Podu’ for internet and the search engines.

And let me eat my Eddoe fry ;-)

Ingredients:

Namma CheppanKizhangu : some 15 No.s (This serves two)

Oil : 2-3 tbsp

Chilli powder :  1/2 tsp

Coriander powder : 1/2 tsp

Turmeric powder : 1/4 tsp

Salt : to taste

Method:

  1. Wash the root thoroughly in running water.
  2. Boil it in an open pan till it starts to soften. Or you can pressure cook it for one whistle.
  3. When its cooked, peel the skin and cut into small bite sized pieces.
  4. Heat oil in a wide non stick pan. Add the cheppankizhangu to it.
  5. Add salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder and coriander powder. Alternatively, you can add 1 tsp sambar powder.
  6. Fry in low flame about 10 minutes or until it is roasted nicely, carefully flipping each piece now and then.
  7. Serve with rice, if there is any left after tasting ;-)

Easier Method:

  1. Wash and pat dry the cheppankizhangu. Divide into two batches.
  2. Microwave each batch for 2 -3 minutes, until steam builds up.
  3. Wait for a minute or two till it cools down.
  4. Peel the skin, cut into bite sized pieces
  5. Follow from step #4 described above.

Note:

  • According to your Microwave wattage, adjust the cooking time.

  • Do not cook for a long time

  • Always be around while cooking in MW

  • If you are uncomfortable using a bag in MW, follow the stove top method.

Cooking Blunders

Eleven years back, when I came to Chennai, the only cooking I knew, was to boil water – that too if someone else lighted the stove for me.

I used to stay with a group of girls in an apartment near Thiruvanmiyur Beach. We used to cook dinner at home. The golden rule was that the first one to reach home should cook. Since my cooking knowledge was subzero, I used to ensure that I never reached home first :D. I would gladly do any other chore – like washing dishes, laying out the table, cleaning the kitchen – anything, other than cooking.

The first time I had to cook was when Miss M and Miss A, our primary cooks, had to go to some wedding reception. I came home first and was terrorized to find that I had to cook for myself and three other girls. After making frantic phone calls to friends and family, I decided to make a simple dal and brinjal (eggplant) saute to go with rice. As I started cutting vegetables, I really had a feeling that it will all end well.

I still remember vividly standing in the house, which was full of smoke, and offering the girls to buy pizza for them. The brinjal was completely burnt and I had no idea how to open the cooker. The girls, bless them, helped me out. That night we had dal with burnt brinjal in it, along with scrambled eggs.

And I bonded forever with them :)

I learnt the basics of cooking by watching the girls and slowly my level of confidence started rising. Soon after the brinjal-dal incident, one of the girls who was cooking at that time, had a visitor. She was making cucumber sambar. She asked me to cook the vegetable while she attended her visitor.

When she came to the kitchen later, she found me shallow frying the cucumbers in oil(sauteing) instead of cooking them in water!!! She laughed for a long long time before she told me the correct way to do it.

Another incident that comes to my mind is when I was making sambar. We used to make ‘cooker sambar’ where in you put all the ingredients – dal, vegetables and the tamarind extract- in the cooker and let it all pressure cook together. I was told to add water till the vegetable submerges. Well, I added an entire cooker full of water – and why? Cause the bloody vegetables float and I had to add water till it submerges!!!! Good god, the laughter at the house was loudest for this one!!!

You would expect me to pick up cooking in a few years time. But another incident that comes to my mind is the time when Miss M had gone abroad for 5-6 months. I had developed a huge love for cooking and I would lovingly cook for the new set of girls who had just moved in at that time. We were still following the ‘first come, first cook’ policy, so the girls would try to reach home first before me so that they can have a decent dinner. One of them even took half day off once, to reach home before me to stop me from cooking the onasadya :D.

And now, here I am – writing a food blog!!! Ironical, don’t you think?